Despite Falling to No. 4, Ducks Still Control Their Destiny
Please raise your hand if you were shocked and upset that Kansas State jumped Oregon in the latest BCS rankings. Now, if your hand is raised, please turn in your college football fan membership card immediately.
A quick recap of the weekend. No. 3 Oregon was up on Arizona State 43-7 just three minutes into the second quarter. Then, Chip Kelly called off the dogs, brought in the backups, and the Ducks were outscored 21-0 the remainder of the game. What people see is the 43-7 lead the Ducks built in 18 minutes. What the computers see is the 43-21 result against an unranked opponent.
Now let’s look at No. 4 Kansas State. They traveled to Morgantown to take on No. 13 West Virginia. The game was supposed to be a shootout, but turned into a good old fashioned beat-down. Collin Klein completed 19 of his 21 passes for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns. Oh yeah, he added another four touchdowns on the ground, and the Wildcats blew out the Mountaineers 55-14. In football, they call that a statement. Klein put himself in the driver seat for the Heisman, a seat once held by West Virgina’s Geno Smith.
So which win was more impressive? If you answered Oregon, please turn in your college football fan membership card if you haven’t already. Kansas State earned their No. 3 spot fair and square. But they still aren’t in the driver’s seat for a spot in the BCS title game. That spot still belongs to Oregon. For explanation why, let’s look at the remaining respective schedules of Kansas State and Oregon.
Pending a win over No. 14 Texas Tech this weekend, the Wildcats’ will have reached the summit of Everest so to speak. The tough work will be behind them, now they’ll just have to avoid slipping to their deaths on the way back down. After that, they play an Oklahoma State team that lost their starting QB for the year, followed by match-ups against TCU, Baylor, and No. 23 Texas. It is very probable that Kansas State will go 12-0. But as we look at Oregon’s schedule, we’ll see why an unbeaten Oregon squad would go to the BCS title game instead of an unbeaten Kansas State team.
Oregon’s schedule is quite the opposite of Kansas State’s. The Ducks haven’t been tested yet. If you go by rankings, their toughest opponents were (then) No. 22 Arizona and (then) No. 23 Washington. Both of those opponents are 1-3 in Pac-12 play thus far. However, November will be about as stressful for Oregon as finals week is for a student. First up will be No. 9 USC on the road. Next, they travel to Berkeley to face Cal, where they have won just once in the past decade. Then it’s back to Autzen for a matchup against No. 17 Stanford, followed by a trip to Corvallis to face No. 7 Oregon State. I’m not saying this will happen, but those are four games where you could make a valid argument that the Ducks could lose one of those. However, that would require the collapse of the century, not something likely to happen to this team. Win those games, and the Ducks are 12-0 along with Kansas State.
Here’s the part the gives the Ducks the advantage. It’s called a conference championship game. I’m sure you’ve heard the talk that Utah and Colorado bring nothing to the conference. What they do bring is the expansion of the conference to 12 teams, and thus allowing the Pac-12 to have a championship game. The Big 12 used to have a conference championship, but then Missouri split to the SEC, Nebraska left for the Big 10 and Colorado to the Pac-12. Those teams left, and so did the always entertaining Big 12 conference title game.
This means Kansas State can finish no better than 12-0. If this was like the old days of the Pac-10, there would be a heated debate about which 12-0 team was better between Oregon and Kansas State. But with the addition of a conference title game, the Ducks have an opportunity to go 13-0. And it’s not just that Oregon could go 13-0, but how they would go 13-0. Let’s say that USC loses to Oregon on November 3, but then wins out. In this case, you have a 12-0 Oregon team facing a 10-2 USC team. The Ducks gain home field advantage in Autzen. Now let’s say Oregon wins. That leaves us with a 13-0 Oregon team with two wins over top 10 teams versus a 12-0 Kansas State team with one win over a top 10 team. I say advantage Oregon.
Chip Kelly has made it clear that he does not pay attention to BCS rankings, and treats every game like it’s the Super Bowl. Even if that game is against a team like Colorado when the Ducks are 47.5 point favorites. The scenario remains simple enough for a first grader to understand. Win, and the Ducks will punch their ticket to Miami for a shot at their first ever national title. Lose once, and the national title hopes are over.